What were the Bridge organisations?
The Bridge network was established in 2012 by Arts Council England (ACE) to connect the cultural sector and the education sector so that children and young people had access to great arts and cultural opportunities wherever they live. The network was made up of ten regionally embedded organisations and was co-funded by ACE and the Department for Education (DfE) at the cost of £10 million a year.
The ten organisations that made up the Bridge Network were appointed through a competitive process for their experience and expertise in the field of creative and cultural education. Between 2012 and 2023 they worked to a set of shared role descriptors including: using Partnership Investment to leverage new funding into their region; supporting schools to achieve Artsmark and embed the Quality Principles for Cultural Education; driving the uptake of Arts Award; developing Leaders for Cultural Education; mobilising and supporting Local Cultural Education Partnerships. Some of the impacts of this work include:
- £24.3m additional investment to support cultural education partnerships;
- 151 Local Cultural Education Partnerships were established;
- 59% of schools were engaged in Bridge activity;
- 20.2% of schools embarked on their Artsmark journey, meaning that >1.9m children are enjoying a richer creative curriculum.
This new report was commissioned by the ten former Bridge organisations and written by Dr David Parker. It documents the function and evolution of the Bridge role and reviews how the organisations who fulfilled it made it work locally, what legacies might remain, and what stands to be lost if replacements do not emerge.
ACE stopped funding the Bridge network at the end of March 2023. The report acknowledges the implication of this decision being that “for the first time in over 40 years, cultural learning has no form of infrastructural support that explicitly recognises the need for linkage between the cultural and education sectors.” The CLA will be watching this situation carefully as we share the concern mirrored in the Arts in Schools report, that “partnership, collaboration and building models of best practice cannot happen without [expert] brokerage”.
What are the former Bridge organisations doing now?
The ten independent organisations that delivered the Bridge function for Arts Council England each continue to deliver interesting and imaginative work linked to education, arts, culture and creativity, social enterprise, regeneration and place in their regions and beyond. If you want to find out more about what they are up to you can visit their websites. Or get in touch directly if you are interested in partnering, tapping into expertise and learning, or making further connections.
Getting in touch with the former Bridges
A New Direction
Norfolk & Norwich Festival
The Mighty Creatives
Real Ideas Organisation
Royal Opera House
Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums